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The Sky Is the Limit: What You Can Do with an MPA Degree

Monday, August 08, 2016 | 12:00 AM

A career in public service requires a lifelong commitment to a cause greater than oneself. Public service leaders identify needs and find ways to meet them, or they develop improvements for existing procedures.

Why Choose Public Service

A career in public service means serving communities effectively and efficiently. A Master of Public Affairs (MPA) degree can prepare graduates to implement change and meet needs in a variety of ways, such as working in local, state or federal government, either as an elected official or in a supporting capacity; working for a nonprofit or nongovernmental agency; or championing a cause that enhances communities, such as the arts or cultural enrichment. You can pursue a career in public service in many industries, including healthcare, education, homeland security or international aid, among others. Some of the nation’s top employers hire MPA graduates, including Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, CNN and Google. Below are a few notable MPA graduates who have led highly successful careers.

Become Involved in Public Service

Thad Allen is a former U.S. Coast Guard admiral and commandant who is known for bringing government and non-government entities together to address major challenges. Some of his biggest achievements include leading the federal response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita as well as serving as incident commander for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. He currently serves as executive vice president for the prominent consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton.

Kathleen Sebelius is the former Secretary of Health of Human Services under President Obama. She also served as the Governor of Kansas. Sebelius earned her MPA in 1977. She is best known for her healthcare reform efforts and implementing the Affordable Care Act under President Obama.

Several other MPA degree holders have also reached the White house, including current Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Stability and Humanitarian Affairs, Anne A. Witkowsky, and former Chief of Staff for Barack Obama, Peter Rouse.

Sean Charles O’Keefe with an MPA degree started his career as Presidential Management Intern and later served as was a budget analyst, comptroller for the Department of Defense. He served as well as Secretary of the NAVY. Later, he served as Administrator of NASA which took him to be Chancellor of Louisiana State University.

Roy Rodriguez is currently McAllen City Manager. He received his MPA and pursued a career in local government. In an article publishes by Texas Border “Ladder to Success-Roy Rodriguez McAllen City Manager” he shared that determination, inspiration, and sense for community improvement leads him to be an active member of the local government with different position.

Judy Davila, who has worked for La Villa since receiving her master’s degree in public administration in May 2010, started her career as city manager for the Sullivan City in the Rio Grande Valley. While earning her master’s degree, Davila also went through the Certified Public Manager program at the University of Texas-Pan American. She also has internship experience with the City of McAllen and U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa’s office.

Higher Education Opportunity

Walter Broadnax started his career with an MPA degree. He had a long and distinguished career in public administration and public policy as both a practitioner and as an academic. Before joining the Maxwell School, he served as president of Clark Atlanta University and a dean of the School of Public Affairs at American University and professor at the University of Maryland, where he directed the Bureau of Governmental Research.

Sylvester Murrey has had a long career with an MPA degree. He is currently Visiting Professor of Public Policy and Administration, Jackson State University. Former Professor and Coordinator of Master of Public Administration Program, Savannah State University; Professor of Public Administration, Cleveland State University; Manager, Government Consulting Services, Coopers and Lybrand; City Manager, City of San Diego, California; City Manager, City of Cincinnati, Ohio; City Manager, City of Ann Arbor, Michigan; City Manager, City of Inkster, Michigan. He is a member of the National Academy of Public Administration.

Join International Humanitarian Efforts

Growing up in a conflict zone, Ban Ki-Moon saw how the United Nations (U.N.) helps civilians affected by war, which inspired his career in public administration. He received his MPA in 1985 and served as South Korea’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade before he became secretary-general of the U.N. in 2007. Among his platforms are sustainable development, women’s rights and disarmament.

Kavita Ramdas is another humanitarian with an MPA. From 1996 to 2010, Ramdas led the Global Fund for Women, a nonprofit organization that funds women’s human rights initiatives. During Ramdas’ tenure, the fund’s assets more than tripled, as did the number of countries where the Global Fund operates. Ramdas also serves on the boards of a number of nonprofit organizations, which is another good option for MPA graduates.

Pursue a Business Career

You may also use your MPA degree to establish your own business. Nick Taranto did just that, creating, a rapidly growing food delivery service that has generated more than $25 million in revenue since Taranto founded it in 2002. Taranto’s hope is that becomes not just a resource for busy families but also a tech- and data-driven solution for the challenges of the American food supply chain.

As a former police officer, Chris Van Gorder had always been interested in public service. After an injury sidelined his law enforcement career, Van Gorder began a career in healthcare and went on to earn his MPA. Now CEO of California-based Scripps Health, Van Gorder oversees an integrated health system that includes acute-care hospitals, outpatient centers and a regional home health service and hospice.

An MPA degree can yield many career opportunities. Whether you work in the private sector, for a government entity or for a humanitarian cause, an advanced degree can give you the knowledge and skills required to resolve public issues and implement change.

Learn about University of Texas Rio Grande Valley online MPA program.


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